The Well-Being Perks You Never Thought to Offer Shorter work weeks? Pets in the office? We say 'woof!'

By Heather R. Huhman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Healthy and happy employees are a company's best resource. June, Employee Well-being Month, is a great opportunity for companies to help employees meet their personal goals, provide ways to feel better at work, combat stress and more. Employee health and well-being leads to a stronger company culture.

Related: Watch What Happens When You Invest in Employee Wellness

Work often takes so much time and energy that it leaves employees too stressed and exhausted to take care of themselves. So, what are some unique wellness perks employers can offer for happier and healthier employees?

1. Pets in the office

Employees say pet-friendly offices improve morale and sense of well-being, according to a March survey, by Banfield Pet Hospital, of Portland,Oregon, of 1,000 employees and 200 HR decision-makers from a mix of company sizes and industries across the United States.

In that study, seven out of 10 people surveyed said pets at work make a positive impact on office dynamics and workplace morale. Pet-friendly offices give employees a better sense of well-being and work-life balance. They also relieve stress and contribute to improved work relationships.

Further, pet-friendly offices are a great way to hook potential job candidates, as 65 percent of job candidates ask about pet-friendly policies, according to the survey. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of human resources managers surveyed said they discuss their pet-friendly workplace policies when recruiting employees.

2. Financial wellness services

In a 2015 study of more than 3,000 adults by the American Psychological Association, 72 percent of respondents said they felt stressed about money at least some of the time, and 22 percent had experienced extreme financial stress. An additional study published by Rand in 2015 found that lack of sleep, financial concerns and care of family members were negatively associated with productivity.

For a more productive, less stressed workforce, try offering methods for relieving financial burdens. For example, companies are starting to offer partial or full repayments of student loans for employees. Companies like Peanut Butter, which we use here at Come Recommended, make it easy for employers to offer student loan repayment as a financial wellness perk.

Whether it's student loans, or some other financial benefits package, relieving financial burdens of employees can greatly improve the well-being of a workforce.

3. Shortened work weeks

While the concept might seem crazy to traditional companies, a February study from the Melbourne Institute found that work weeks longer than 25 hours have a negative impact on cognition.

Although a 25-hour workweek may not be possible, there are many companies beginning to offer alternatives to the 40-hour standard. For example, World Wildlife Fund closes every other Friday to meet goals of conservation and work-life balance. Employees are able to use the extra day however they choose, a practice that lends itself to a healthier workforce.

4. Paid days off for volunteering

The freedom to volunteer on office time is great for employee health and well-being. According to a 2014 study by the UnitedHealth Group and partners, there is a clear link between volunteering and better physical, mental and emotional health. In fact, 94 percent of those surveyed said volunteering helped to improve their moods, 78 percent said it helped lower their stress levels and more than 75 percent said it helped them with their time management skills.

Some options for volunteer-related perks include matching employees' charitable contributions or allowing employees to take paid days off for volunteering. For example, Salesforce lets employees take six paid days off a year to volunteer. After they've completed the six days, the company will then make a $1,000 grant to any nonprofit an employee chooses.

Related: Related: Are the Famous Valley Perks Undermining Employee Health?

5. Fitness competitions

Many companies are using wearable technologies to introduce wellness competitions, to keep employees motivated to stay fit.

For example, IBM gave out Fitbits to 40,000 employees over two years. During that time, 96 percent of employees routinely logged their health data, including eating habits. Employees also reached an average of 8,800 steps per day -- more than double the average of people who don't wear pedometers. Finally, 63 percent of IBM employees continued to wear their Fitbit months after the challenge wrapped up.

Of course, it's not a requirement to hand out pedometers to employees to run similar challenges. Most smartphones already have step trackers embedded in their hardware, so anyone carrying a phone can participate.

Related: Using Wearable Devices to Help Promote Employee Wellness

But, no matter what the size or culture of your company, there are lots of ways you can help improve the well-being of your employees. What ideas do you have?

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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